Corona app: the 10 most important questions answered

It’s finally here: the Corona warning app. But is the installation mandatory? How does it work and what happens to my data? We have answered the ten most burning questions for you.

Better late than never: The Corona warning app is now also available for download in Germany. It is intended to help contain the coronavirus and make it easier to understand the chains of infection. A first forecast by the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) states that the Corona app can prevent a further outbreak to the extent of the recently overcome wave of new infections. However, only if half the population downloads the app. Marco Junk, BVDW managing director, said:

[…] enlightenment [ist] the most important. To fight the virus, authorities, health insurance companies, doctors and companies must continue to work closely together. We have to explain the app and its benefits and also be able to take away fears and reservations, for example data protection concerns.

The federal government has never commissioned or launched a health app before. This was developed by SAP and Deutsche Telekom. SAP was responsible for programming the software. Telekom provides the server infrastructure for the app backend. Users have many questions regarding the Corona app. Do I have to download the app? What happens to my data? And how does the app affect my device’s battery life? We have summarized and answered the ten most burning questions about the Corona warning app for you.

1. How does the Corona app work?

The Corona warning app works on a simple principle: anonymized ID signals are regularly generated in the background and sent to nearby devices via Bluetooth. At the same time, your own device receives the signals from the other smartphones.

If there is an infection with Covid-19, users can use the app to inform owners of all smartphones on which the Corona warning app is also installed and in the vicinity of which they have been. The other users then receive a warning message informing them that they have been in contact with an infected person. However, it is not disclosed when the contact was made or which user is infected with Covid-19.

2. What data is saved?

Mainly data from users who have become infected with Covid-19 are stored. The data is anonymized. Temporary code keys are generated by Google or Apple’s operating interface, managed and sent via Bluetooth. The Corona warning app is not intended to store users’ personal data. However, it is necessary to activate location detection in the Android app.

3. Can the app protect me from Covid-19 infection?

The answer is a clear no. Above all, the app is intended to protect the general public. Users of the Corona app are warned if they may have been infected with Covid-19. Protection against the virus is not provided here, as the warning is only sent after a contact has been made. So it still applies: keep hygiene measures and keep your distance.

4. Is the installation of the app voluntary?

Yes, the installation of the Corona warning app is voluntary. The Federal Government’s website states:

It is important to the federal government that all citizens know that the use of the app is voluntary.

5. Is tracing always active?

If you have installed the Corona warning app, you can switch the Bluetooth tracking on and off as required. However, using the app only makes sense if you really use it continuously with the Bluetooth switched on.

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6. Is the Corona app secure?

Since the Corona app sends signals via Bluetooth, the greatest security risk is likely to be that it is continuously active in public. However, should security gaps arise, experience has shown that Apple and Google fix them relatively quickly.

There is no absolute security guarantee, regardless of the software. Therefore, experts cannot say clearly whether the Corona app is safe or not.

7. Does the app shorten my smartphone’s battery life?

This question cannot be answered unambiguously at the present time. Google and Apple do not provide any information on this, and since the Corona app was only recently released, no tests have yet been carried out. It can only be speculated whether the app will affect battery life. It is conceivable that the Corona app puts an additional load on the battery. The extent to which this depends on the hardware is certain.

8. Is the Corona app compatible with other Covid 19 warning apps?

Theoretically yes. However, the prerequisite for this is that both apps use an Apple or Google operating interface. If both apps use these, the data can be exchanged. In order for two different Corona apps to be able to communicate with each other, the server infrastructure still has to be adapted. This differs from country to country. The reason: The health systems in the nations are different. The reporting of positive Covid 19 test results should also be passed on to the other country. For this, the server software in both countries would have to be harmonized.

The software of the German Corona app cannot be adapted at the moment. However, the developers did not rule out that this would be possible in the near future.

9. Which operating system version does the app need?

The Corona app can be installed for iOS 13.5 smartphones. For Android devices, at least the Android 5.0 operating system should be available to access the app. However, they need suitable Bluetooth low-energy hardware.

10. The app warns of an infection risk – what now?

At first nothing happens. Because the warning of the app does not mean that you are infected. Therefore, you do not have to quarantine immediately if you have received such a message. The warning message only indicates that you have been near an infected person. This information also does not have to be passed on to the health department, since this is not a positive clinical test result. There is no entitlement to a corona test. If you have received a warning and do not develop any symptoms, you can continue to do your everyday life as before.

You can now download the Corona Warning app from the App Store and Google Play Store.

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